What is wear and tear?
While a dwelling should be left clean and tidy when the tenant leaves the property, a landlord can not expect the dwelling to be returned in the same condition it was presented in at the beginning of the tenancy. Scuffs and scrapes are unavoidable in daily life. A dwelling with 5 occupants would be expected to show more signs of wear and tear when compared to a dwelling that is occupied by a single person.
A landlord must take the following into consideration when determining what is considered reasonable wear and tear:
- the length of the tenancy,
- the number of occupants in the dwelling,
- whether or not there were children living in the dwelling,
- whether any deterioration to fixtures, furnishings, walls or floor coverings reflected "ordinary and reasonable use", and
- the condition and age of fixtures and furnishings at the commencement of the tenancy
What damages are considered in excess of reasonable wear and tear?
Damages which would be considered excess of reasonable wear and tear would likely include:
- holes in walls and doors,
- burn marks,
- excessive staining to carpets,
- missing fixtures,
- nicotine damage in the event that smoking was expressly prohibited,
- torn curtains, and
- broken glass in windows.
However, what is considered reasonable wear and tear after one month is clearly on a different scale to reasonable wear and tear after a tenancy of ten years' duration.
How to avoid disputes in relation to wear and wear?
In order to avoid disputes in relation to wear and tear, photographs and a detailed inventory list outlining the condition of fixtures and furnishings should be taken at the commencement of the tenancy, and both parties should sign and date this document and it should be attached to the lease agreement. If there is any previous damage to fixtures and fittings, it is worth noting these immediately. This will be useful in the event of a dispute in relation to wear and tear.
Landlords are entitled to inspect the dwelling at reasonable intervals during the tenancy. It is good practice to organise an inspection of the dwelling 3-4 weeks before the tenancy is due to end so that any damage in excess of reasonable wear and tear can be outlined and remedied by a tenant. It is also advisable for a landlord to take photographs of the damage and write to the tenant to request repairs are addressed within a reasonable time period. If a tenant fails to address the damage in excess of reasonable wear and tear, a landlord is entitled to retain all, or a portion, of the deposit to cover the reasonable cost of the repairs.
Withholding deposits due to wear and tear
Deductions may be made or a deposit may be retained in full if there has been damage above normal wear and tear to the property. However, the onus of proof will be on the landlord to justify why all of, or a portion of the security deposit, was retained to remedy damages in excess of reasonable wear and tear.
Disputes in relation to wear and tear
In the event a dispute is referred to the RTB in relation to wear and tear, the RTB would recommend the following evidence be provided in advance of any hearing:
- photographic evidence of any alleged damage,
- purchase invoices to substantiate the age of the damaged items,
- dated invoices and quotations to substantiate the cost of repairs
It is important to remember that an adjudicator or Tribunal are unlikely to award the price of a new sofa when the one damaged was 9 years old and had seen considerable use.